Tony Perrett standing in the TAFE building the USC which has sat empty for four years.
Tony Perrett standing in the TAFE building the USC which has sat empty for four years. Renee Albrecht

Perrett lets fly as negotiations stall on uni expansion

GYMPIE MP Tony Perrett has come out swinging at Training Minister Shannon Fentiman over the latest hitch in moves to expand the USC campus in Gympie.

The minister's office revealed late on Thursday that the USC had declined a State Government proposal to utilise the empty Gympie TAFE building, which involved a USC and Gympie Regional Council contribution of $100,000 each plus other conditions.

"This is nothing more than a cost shifting exercise from a government incapable of accepting its culpability in preventing local students from accessing the same opportunities that are available in the Minister's own electorate,” an angry Mr Perrett said yesterday.

Minister for Training and Skills Development Shannon Fentiman
Minister for Training and Skills Development Shannon Fentiman Matt Taylor GLA300518MEMB

"They are thrashing about trying to deflect responsibility and throwing up false and unsubstantiated accusations,” he said.

"It is very simple - this is a state government building which they let fall into disrepair.

"They have deliberately, wilfully, and wastefully let the building run down on their watch and are now trying to make out they are doing everything right.

"This is not special funding from the State Government.

"The government was always going to have to restore it to attract any sort of tenant, or even to re-use it for TAFE.

Leader of the Opposition in Queensland Deb Frecklington and Gympie MP Tony Perrett.
Leader of the Opposition in Queensland Deb Frecklington and Gympie MP Tony Perrett. Patrick Woods

"This is just bringing it up to a reasonable state to meet normal work place health and safety requirements.

"The University of the Sunshine Coast will already have to make a significant financial investment in services and facilities in the building so that it meets modern tertiary education standards.

"Expecting Gympie ratepayers to contribute is a slap in the face to hard working ratepayers.

"The Gympie Regional Council has no direct interest in the building which is not even on their asset register.

"That $100,000 of ratepayers' money should be used on local government services here in Gympie.

"This is not a core responsibility of council which is already reeling under a stressed budget which we learnt this week has gone into the red.

"There is only so much that ratepayers can afford.

Shannon Fentiman, Minister for Employment and Small Business and Minister for Training and Skills Development and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk
Shannon Fentiman, Minister for Employment and Small Business and Minister for Training and Skills Development and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk Nev Madsen

"It is shameful to expect them to prop up the state's meanness.

"The Minister hypocritically talks about reinvesting in training local students when the government's record is about running down and cutting courses at the Gympie TAFE.

"It cut Nursing studies at our TAFE which was being used a pathway course for students to study the USC Bachelor of Nursing at the same site.

"The Minister is putting up strawman arguments about my support for the USC to deflect from the issue, cost shift on to to others, and blame the USC.

"It is a complete diversion because they want the problem to go away.

"I never said anything about $1 a year rent but if that's the case it sounds like a good idea.

"It's not new for an education facility.

Gympie MP Tony Perrett and Dr Christian Rowan.
Gympie MP Tony Perrett and Dr Christian Rowan. Tom Daunt

"The government accepts a peppercorn rent from one of the prestigious Brisbane Boys Grammar school which is on state government land.

This is the same government which blew half a billion dollars on a ridiculous dam proposal in the Mary Valley and is spending $500,000 on changing the name of a hospital.

The government has sat on its hands for four years, the Minister has been in charge for a year, and we are expected to believe the USC is at fault.

"I want opportunities for school leavers who cannot go to university because of distance and financial reasons, for mature aged workers who want to upskill and can't move away because of work and family commitments, and for our unemployed youth who want to improve their job prospects.

"Of course I would advocate for my region.

"The Minister clearly hasn't done her homework because this region needs special assistance.

"In June I invited her to meet on site to discuss the issue and she couldn't even be bothered to give the courtesy of a reply.

”We have one of the lowest socio economic regions in the country with systemic high unemployment and low levels of tertiary qualifications of 8.4% compared to the state average of 18.3%.

”Our unemployment level of 8.9 % is 2.9 % above the state average and youth unemployment in the region is 23.5%.

USC Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Hill
USC Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Hill CONTRIBUTED

"There is no sign of good faith here.

"People have been patient for four years and they expect us to believe that this is the best they can do.

"They want the problem to go away and are attempting a cynical and hypocritical diversion.

"Nothing demonstrates it more than the announcement which was sent to the media as the Minister provided the answer to the Parliament.

"The Minister was obliged to answer by yesterday afternoon and deliberately left it to the very last minute.

"It was to manufacture a whitewashing exercise to absolving the government of any responsibility.”

Gympie Times


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